6.5 Million Robots Now Inhabit the Earth


The latest issue of World Robotics is out!

As we've said before, this fantastic report, produced by the good folks at the statistical department of the International Federation of Robotics, is a must-read if you want to understand the global robotics market.

So on to the hot-off-the-press numbers, which refer to the market at the end 2007. First, industrial robots: there are now nearly 1 million units toiling in factories around the world. As for service robots -- which range from military bomb-disposal bots to home vacuum cleaners -- their number grew to about 5.5 million. All of which brings the world's robot population to 6.5 million. (That's bigger than Papua New Guinea but smaller than Tajikistan, if you're wondering.)

According to World Robotics forecasts, 1.2 million industrial robots and more than 17 million service robots will populate the world by 2011. (See chart above, which Automaton put together by adding up totals for industrial and service robots. See also the note at the end of this post.)

Some other highlights from the report:

* In 2007, 114,365 new industrial robots were installed worldwide, a growth of 3 percent over the previous year.

* These new robots are worth some US $6 billion. If you factor in the cost of software, peripherals, and systems engineering, the total triples to $18 billion.

* Asian countries installed 59,300 new robots in 2007. That's far more than any other region in the world, but a decline over the previous year.

* Sales of industrial robots in Europe grew by 15 percent to 34,900 units, the highest

number of robots ever installed in one year.

* In the Americas, sales of industrial robots reached 19,600 units, 9 percent more than in 2006.

* As for forecasts, the World Robotics folks are optimistic about the market for industrial robots over the next few years. Here's what they say:

So we expect a moderate increase worldwide of about 4% over the course of 2008. The dark clouds of a worsening global economic outlook will affect robot installations in 2009 and probably also in 2010. But we do not anticipate a sharp decrease. Why? Industrial robots are a key component in automating processes. Productivity, labour shortages caused by demographic shift, high quality standards, environmental regulations, reduction of tedious and even dangerous jobs, energy and infrastructure costs, inflexible production etc. will pose new challenges to automation technology and will stimulate the demand for robots in all manufacturing sectors. Last but not least, investments in the emerging markets will continue apace. A strong global recovery can be expected by 2011 at the latest.

Finally, some service robots highlights:

* Some 12,000 professional service robots (heavy-duty units, as opposed to home units) were sold up to 2007. Most of them (25 percent) are in defense, rescue, and security applications, followed by field robots (mainly milking robots) with 20 percent, and cleaning robots and underwater systems with 12 percent each.

* As for personal service robots, sales up to 2007 reached 5.4 million units -- about 3.4 million units for domestic applications and about 2.0 million units for entertainment applications. Most of the units for domestic applications are vacuum cleaners (3.3 million units) and more than 110,000 are lawn mowers. Sales of these robots amount to about $1.3 billion!

Note: Keep in mind that the 2007 and 2011 totals shown in the chart are a mixed bag of things, from $9.99 toy robots to multimillion dollar factory manipulators. What's more, the number of industrial robots refers to operational units (it considers obsolescence), whereas the number of service robots refers to units sold (it still counts robots no longer in operation, like that first-generation Roomba you harvested for parts.)



IEEE Spectrum’s award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.

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